Red House Records
P. O. Box 4044
St. Paul, MN 55104
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Dale Ott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is Guy Davis' second release on Red House, normally a bastion of folkies (Greg Brown, Lucy Kaplansky) & Minnesota style bluegrass (Kate MacKenzie, Peter Ostroushko). Well, yes, they have Spider John Koerner, but since they picked up Paul Geremia and Guy Davis, they might be looking at cornering some of the best in acoustic blues as well. This disc of thirteen cuts, nearly fifty minutes of a variety of the good stuff, contains ten originals. The three covers are a Robert Johnson, a Mance Lipscomb and a Noah Lewis. The disc was produced by Joe Ferry and Guy Davis. It features good clean production with a minimum of audio clutter, an excellent choice of backup musicians and a tasteful handling of Davis' somewhat rough voice, which, while appropriate for the material, could have been mishandled by less skilled producers bent on making it smoother or clearer. Instead, the CD rings with the clarity of a purpose that belies his apparently young age. That purpose is supported by his considerable guitar and harmonica skills as well.
The disc starts with an original tune Georgia Jelly Roll. This Leadbelly-style 12-bar country blues could have been recorded at a juke joint. Davis plays 12 string, sings and talks during the instrumental breaks, offering advice to the dancers, requesting some liquid refreshment, etc.
I Got The Power: This slow 12 bar features Davis on 12 string slide and rack harp, with a standup bass, drums and organ. He claims in the liner notes he wrote this after playing Howlin' Wolf's guitar at a House of Blues. This song is clearly a young man's blues, full of confidence and brag.
The Robert Johnson song, When You Got A Good Friend, features Davis on vocals & slide acoustic, with bass, piano & electric guitar.
Long Train is a slow 12 bar with a long instrumental opening, Davis on harp and Abdul Wall Muhammad on solo electric guitar. This is one of the more electric blues on this disc, with alternating guitar and harp breaks---the obligatory "train don't take my baby away" song.
Run, Sinner Run is the Mance Lipscomb song, an 8-bar country blues, about what will happen to the cocky kid in _I Got The Power_. It has some nice slide 12 string and a compelling stomping foot.
The next four songs are all Guy Davis tunes. Mama's Gonna Fix It Right is an uptempo barrelhouse piano number. _Jelly Bone Jelly_ is a country blues with Pete Seeger on banjo and 2 harps (Davis and Jimmy Recchionne) trading lead and rhythm parts during the breaks. See Me When You Can is a slow acoustic 12 bar with a nice harp break, more in a Little Walter style than some of his other harp stuff. Gee The Mule is a solo acoustic fingerpicked story song. Davis can play guitar, wrapping his best gravelly storytelling voice around this one. You can just imagine he's a seventy-something grandfather leaning back in his rocker to tell it.
Minglewood Blues is the Noah Lewis tune, a moderate 12 bar. It's an acoustic blues with a stand up bass, piano with Davis playing rack harp as well as guitar. He plays a pretty sharp harp break in this song, as well as doing some nice harp answering vocals.
Thanksgiving Day is a solo fingerpicked instrumental featuring very tasteful string snapping, harmonics, and foot tapping.
The Road Is Calling is a full band treatment of a moderate ballad written by Davis.
New Shoes is a live-in-the-studio blues shout. Just call-and-response vocals and harp, with the audience clapping along with (and providing some interesting variations to) his foot stomp. Very powerful technique that Sonny Terry (among others) used to use live, but it doesn't always translate well in the studio. Davis pulls it off beautifully, thanks in part to his talent, ability, and a good mix balancing the performer and the studio audience.
This CD features a talented young man who writes and plays with the breadth and depth of someone considerably older. His guitar and harp playing are more than adequate and his voice just underscores the feeling in his songs. This disc is well worth the price of admission and I certainly look forward to seeing him perform sometime in the future, as I expect he is just as engaging live.
Edited by David Schultz